Last week, I was queuing for an ice-cream on Southbourne beach. While waiting, two people in front of me were discussing how great the past 12 months had been for them financially. In effect, they were discussing how they were working full time but were also on furlough.  They were, to directly quote them, “quids in”.

Are “side-hustles” – where an employee has a second job on the side of their main job – allowed?

The starting point for both HR and employees will be the employment contract or any relevant staff policies.  It is common for contracts – particularly those of senior employees – to expressly forbid outside interests, unless the employer agrees to them.  The government’s furlough scheme is fine with those on furlough working elsewhere, if it’s acceptable to the employer (and usually a furlough agreement will say whether or not it is, particularly if it’s not already covered off in the employment contract).

If the side-hustle is in breach of a restriction placed on the employee then disciplinary action or even dismissal may be appropriate depending on the circumstances.  If an employee has at least two years’ continuous service, the business will have to ensure that it has a fair reason and has followed a fair process before dismissing, or else the employee may have a viable claim.

Employees sometimes ask whether they must share with their employer the fact they have a second job. This also depends on the employment contract. If they don’t have it already, an employer may want to consider inserting a provision into their contracts which places an employee under an obligation to disclose other jobs.  This could be for a number of reasons, including:

  • To ensure compliance with the maximum 48-hour working week as set out in the Working Time Regulations;
  • To avoid a conflict of interest between the two jobs;
  • To ensure that the second job does not have detrimental impact on the performance of their duties to the employer, even if there is no conflict of interest.

Were the beachgoers in the ice-cream queue doing anything wrong?  Well, many employers have taken a relaxed view to their employees having other jobs whilst on furlough, provided they are available to return and work as soon as required.  On the basis that there were no contractual provisions preventing it or any requirement to tell their employer, then they were probably right to be “quids in”.